Happy women spend money
The author is the head of the Today & People Team of the JoongAng Ilbo.
“Before a business trip, I make beef soup, divide and freeze it into small servings.” “I am thankful that my husband helps out with dishes.” If you are smiling at the inspirational stories of successful working moms, you are not likely to be a working mom in your 30s or 40s.
Several seniors I respect in this industry recently resigned or decided to quit. They are all women with children who are entering or have entered elementary school. They can no longer rely on their families as the pandemic extends. The title of an article on an online media outlet they raved over was “Don’t have children.”
Some may say that making beef soup isn’t that difficult but out of a sense of crisis that the fertility rate recorded 0.7 in the fourth quarter of last year and is about to hit zero soon, I want to deliver their cautious voice. In particular, because many are likely to be asked “When do you plan on having kids” during the Chuseok holiday.
A strong family bond is a precious value in Korea. I do not object to the social consensus that having and raising a child is a special experience. But now that 21 years have passed in the 21st century, the image of a mother needs to evolve. The “good mother and devoted wife” has turned into the “working mom making beef soup,” urging mothers to perfectly manage work and family.
Koreans put great significance on community value and want to be recognized by others. This DNA must be an important asset to advance the country. But can everyone become a perfect mother? Doesn’t the concept of family also need to change? It is about time to accept a father devoted to the family and a mother focusing on her career. How about banning the expression of “helping with chores” for husbands in dual-income households? I have no intention or qualification to disparage the efforts of the struggling working mothers. Rather, I respect them. But the social atmosphere making working moms a new norm — instead of an option — is suffocating.
Author Choi Yeon-ji’s famous book “Happy Women Don’t Write,” includes a poem by late novelist Park Kyong-ni titled “Mules in the Himalayas.” The poem criticizes a real-life male writer born in 1946 who cried over a mule that collapsed and died from overworking, which reminded him of his mother. Choi wrote, “You could choose not to give the mother a heavy burden. Why did you just watch her suffer in your house and cry over a mule after you went as far as the Himalayas?”
Those in their 30s and 40s are afraid of becoming like the mule and the emerging MZ generation in their 20s and 30s don’t even think about becoming like the mule.
What do really happy women do? They spend money rather than write, according to author Choi.